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Last name: Berezkin

Name: Yurii


Education and Doctor of Science in History


Position: Professor, Department of Anthropology

archeology; ethnography, mythology and ancient

history of American Indians; archeology of the Near
and Middle East in the Neolitic - Early Metal Age

Head of the Department of America, Peter the Great

Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology Russian
Academy of Science (Kunstkamera)

History of anthropology
History of anthropology, Yu.Berezkin
28 lectures, 3 ECTS

The course introduces students to the development of cultural anthropology from its
establishment as a science in the middle of the 19th century until the present. The major
schools of thought and their leading theorists are to be reviewed: Morgan, Tylor, Spencer,
Durkheim, Weber, Boas, Kroeber, Malinovsky, Radcliffe-Brown, Moss, Mead, Levi-Strauss,
Turner, Steward, Geertz, Murdock, Harris, Sahlins, etc. We will evaluate the declared
positions of the researchers and the points of subjective influence in their views.The goal of
the course: to help students to place their own research in the general context of the
science development and through introducing them to the strengths and weaknesses of
different schools to make them able to have their own attitude to each one.

The main task is to familiarize students with the history of the formation of cultural
anthropology and its development from the middle of the 19th century until the present; to
explore the logic of the development of various schools of thought and their interaction, the
role of national traditions; the relation between subjective influence in the views of the
leading scholars and the epochal trends in the evolution of philosophical ideas; the
relationship between the development of ideas and the accumulation of facts; the
connection between anthropology and related disciplines.

Unconventional mythology
Unconventional mythology, Yu.Berezkin
20 lectures, 2 ECTS

In the framework of this course mythology is taken as a set of elements of a plot and
images which are transmitted from one teller to another and subject to change and
selection based on the regularities, specific to the given sphere of culture. The aim of the
course it to familiarize students with global tendencies of folklore motifs and plots
distribution and to demonstrate probable historical reasons for this process.

Theory of Anthropology
Theory of Anthropology, Yu.Berezkin
28 lectures, 3 ECTS

This course is aimed at students who have already taken the “History of cultural
anthropology” course. This course explores the origins and circumstances of the rise of
cultural anthropology as an independent discipline, the logic of the formation and evolution
of certain schools of thought and views of their leaders, the role of national traditions, the
interaction between the schools, epochal trends in the evolution of philosophical ideas.
Special attention will be given to the relationship between the development of ideas and the
accumulation of facts, to the connection between anthropology and related disciplines. The
course explores not only the works of most eminent scholars studied during the first
semester, but also includes works by a wider range of researchers. The most important of
classical works on anthropology are to be analyzed. Upon completion of the course,
students should know the fundamental theory of anthropology and understand the place of
their own research within the general context of the science development.
Yuri Berezkin

The mythological motif of the Cosmic Hunt is peculiar to Northern and Cen-
tral Eurasia and for the Americas but seems to be absent in other parts of
the globe. Two distinct Eurasian versions demonstrate North-American par-
allels at the level of minor details which could be explained only by particular
historical links between corresponding traditions. The first version (three
stars of the handle of the Big Dipper are hunters and the dipper itself is an
animal; Alcor is a dog or a cooking pot) connects Siberian (especially Western
Siberian) traditions with the North-American West (Salish, Chinook) and
East (especially with the Iroquois). The second version (the Orion’s Belt rep-
resents three deer, antelopes, mountain sheep or buffaloes; the hunter is
Rigel or other star below the Orion's Belt; his arrow has pierced the game and
is seen either as Betelgeuze or as the stars of Orion's Head) connects the
South-Siberian – Central-Eurasian mythologies with traditions of North-
American West – Southwest. Both variants unknown in Northeast Asia and
in Alaska probably date to the time of initial settling of the New World. The
circum-Arctic variant(s) (hunter or game are associated with Orion or the
Pleiades) are represented by neighbouring traditions which form an almost
continuous chain from the Lapps to the Polar Inuit. This version could be
brought across the American Arctic with the spread of Tule Eskimo.
Keywords: comparative, Siberian, Central Asian, American Indian, Eskimo
mythology; star names in folk tradition; settling of America

The mythological motif of the Cosmic Hunt (F59.2 according to

S. Thompson’s index (Thompson 1955–1958)) is defined as follows:
certain stars and constellations are interpreted as hunters, their
dogs, and game animals, killed or pursued. This motif forms the
core of the tales typical for northern and central Eurasia and for
the Americas but is rarely, if at all, known on other continents. In
the folklore of the aborigines of Australia only some texts from Vic-
toria have any relation to our theme. According to them, two broth-
ers kill a cannibal emu. One of the stars is considered to be its eye
and the dark patch between the Southern Cross and Centaurus its
body (Waterman 1987: 99, no. 3860). No hunt is described, and the
emu is not a game but an enemy, a monster.

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Yuri Berezkin Folklore 31

The Cosmic Hunt

Figure 1. Area distribution of the Cosmic Hunt tales in the Old and in the New Worlds.
For shaded areas data is not available or unprocessed.

We can conclude that the spread of the Cosmic Hunt motif itself is
evidence in favour of mythological links between Siberia and the
Americas (Fig. 1). Such links become more specific as to their area
distribution if we address the particular variants of the motif (Figs.

The combinations of stars which form constellations recognized by

the Europeans and by people of other continents rarely coincide.
Only Orion, the Pleiades, and (in the Northern Hemisphere) the
Big Dipper have such characteristic outlines that they play some
role in most of the world mythologies (Gibbon 1964: 1972). How-
ever, the relative stability of the composition of these constella-
tions makes the diversity of their associations even more obvious.
Among the Munda and Dravidian groups of Western Bengal, Bihar,
Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, the Big Dipper is a bed with one leg
broken off (Elwin 1938: 156; 1939: 335; Roy & Roy 1937: 431), among
the Muskogeans of the American Southeast, it is a canoe (Swanton
1928: 478), among the Californian Numic Indians it is a net put out

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The Cosmic Hunt: Variants of a Siberian – North-American Myth

by the Rabbit (Driver 1937: 87), among the Alaskan and Western
Canadian Athabaskans it is a one-legged man (Jenness 1934: 248–
249, no. 66; McClelland 1975: 78; Nelson 1983: 39; Teit 1919: 228–229,
no. 5). For most of the Indians of Guyana, Orion is a one-legged man,
while the Yupic Eskimo of Alaska interpret the Big Dipper as poles
with skin ropes tied to them (Nelson 1899: 449). Such examples are
truly numerous.

As for the particular form of the hunt, the communal hunt with
many animals driven by a crowd of people is never described.
The celestial hunters always pursue the only game animal or a
small group or such animals. For example, in a myth of the Car-
rier Athabaskans of British Columbia, the stars of the Big Dip-
per are the hunters and the Pleiades are the caribou (Jenness 1934:
137–141, no. 7). Usually the hunters pursue one big mammal such as
a bear, an elk, a dear, an antelope, a mountain sheep, or a tapir. Only
in the myths of the Chacoan and Patagonian Indians of South
America is the game a big bird, the rhea.


The first variant of the Cosmic Hunt is conditionally named the

Western Siberian one. Several men pursue an elk (in most of
Eurasian versions) or a bear (in most American tales), the hunters
being associated with the stars of the handle of the Big Dipper, and
the animal with the dipper itself. As a Polar constellation, the Big
Dipper could easily attract the interest of the people of the North-
ern Hemisphere, but the stable association of the hunters and of
the animal with certain stars cannot be due to this fact alone. Be-
sides, in the Arctic where the Big Dipper is seen best of all, it does
not play any role in the Cosmic Hunt tales.

The peculiarity of this variant of the myth is much strengthened by

the fact that a weak star near Mizar (the second star of the handle)
is interpreted as a cooking pot carried by one of the hunters (see
Figs. 2, 4). Such a motif is known to the Khanty (Lukina 1990: 69, no.
9; Potanin 1883: 778), the Selkup (Prokofeva 1961: 64–65; 1976: 198),
the Ket (Alekseenko 1976: 84–85), the Khakas (Radlov 1907: 273–
274, no. 181) and to the western (but not to the southeastern) Evenk
(Vasilevich 1936: 274–275, no. 2; 1959: 162–163). In America it is found

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Yuri Berezkin Folklore 31

Ursa Major

Alcor Mizar



Figure 2. Schematic position of the main stars of the Big Dipper.

again among the Iroquois, both the northern (Smith 1883: 81), in
particular, the Seneca (Curtin 2001: 503–504; Curtin & Hewitt 1918:
276–277, no. 54), and the southern Iroquoian speakers, i.e. the
Cherokee (Hagar 1906: 357). The Cherokee are Iroquoian speakers
but they are not Iroquois proper. These are the Seneca, the Cayuga,
the Oneida, the Onondaga, and the Mohawk, the tribes who joined
together to form the Iroquois Confederacy. So this allows to pre-
sume the existence of the motif at least at the time of the Iroquois
language unity, because the Northern and the Southern Iroquois
were not in direct contact in historic times.

There are other mythologies in which the four stars of the Big Dip-
per represent an animal (or a storehouse which the animal has ap-
proached), and the three stars of the handle are described as the
hunters. Such ideas are recorded among the Orochon Evenks, the
Udeghe, and the Oroch of the Russian Far East (Avrorin &
Kozminski 1949: 328; Bereznitski 2003: 80; Mazin 1984: 9–10;
Podmaskin 1991: 12). In America, they were known to the Coastal
and Interior Salish, including the Lillooet, Thompson, Shuswap
(Elliott 1931: 180; Teit 1917a: 16, no. 3)1, Hakcomelem (Boas 1916:
604, no. 61), Snohomish (Clark 1953: 149), Coeur d’Alene (Teit 1917b:
125–126, no. 3; Teit & Boas 1930: 178–179), and possibly, Twana

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The Cosmic Hunt: Variants of a Siberian – North-American Myth

(Elmendorf 1960: 537). The same version was known to some

Chinook groups, the neighbours of the Salish (Clark 1953: 153–155;
Hines 1996: 32–35, no. 5). In eastern North America, the constella-
tion was interpreted in the same way by the Mohawk Iroquois
(Rustige 1988: 32–34) and by several Algonkian people to the west
(the Fox) (Jones 1907: 71–75, no. 4) and to the east of the Iroquois
(the Lenape, the Micmac, maybe to the Penobscot) (Gibbon 1972:
243; Hagar 1900: 93–97; Speck 1935b: 19). This interpretation of the
Big Dipper is mentioned by the late 17th – early 18th century sources
on the inhabitants of Eastern Canada and New England (Allen 1899:
423). For other Algonkian groups of the Midwest and Eastern
Canada (Menomini, Ojibwa, Naskapi) the Big Dipper was a fisher
(Martes pennanti) with an arrow stuck into its tail (Bloomfield 1928:
247–253, no. 86; Hagar 1900: 93–94; Speck 1925: 28–31; 1935a: 66–69).

In many of the versions described above, a certain weak star con-

tinues to play some role though its interpretation is different, be-
ing not a cooking pot but a dog of one of the hunters. In Siberia,
such an interpretation is typical for the Orochon Evenk, the Udeghe
and the Oroch, and in America, among the Salish, the Chinook, the
Mohawk, the Lenape, and the Fox. In all cases when our sources are
adequate enough, they identify this star with Alcor. On the star map,
Alcor is very near to Mizar (second star of the handle) and the ca-
pability to see this weak star was always a test to prove one’s sharp
sight. It seems that Alcor was the smallest of the sky objects sin-
gled out in the pre-scientific era, the fact reflected in the Ancient
and Medieval Chinese, Arab, and Latin texts (Allen 1899: 445–446;
Gibbon 1964: 239)2.

In connection with the Cosmic Star tale, the Big Dipper without
the associations mentioned above (the handle as three hunters, Alcor
as a pot or a dog) appears in several other Eurasian and North
American stories. Interpretations found in the Khakas (seven foxes)
(Alekseev 1980: 87–88; Potanin 1893: 322), Nenets (elk) (Semenov
1994: 115), Ob-Ugrian (elk) (Lukina 1990: 67–69, no. 6; 297, no. 110;
Okladnikov 1950: 299; Potanin 1893: 385), Evenk (elk) (Anisimov
1959: 15; Vasilevich 1959: 162–163) tales do not change the geogra-
phy of the image in question, but the Ancient Greek (bear) (Pausanias:
VIII 3, 3), Mari (she elk with her calf) (Potanin 1883: 713) and
Chuvash examples (mounted hunters with their dogs) (Ashmarin
1984: 26) prove that the Cosmic Hunt myth describing with the Big

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Yuri Berezkin Folklore 31

Dipper as the main sky object was known not only in Asia but also
in Europe. In the Bering Sea region, the Koryak, the Kamchadal
and the Aleuts identified the Big Dipper with a deer or elk (Bogoras
1939: 29; Krasheninnikov 1994: 22, 160; Potanin 1883: 942) but there
is no data on any connection of this image with the Cosmic Hunt

The second (Central-Asian) variant

The Turkic and Mongolian cases of the Central-Asian variant of the

Cosmic Hunt myth were studied in detail by S. Nekliudov (1980).
This variant is known across all the area from southern Siberia to
India. The most important sky objects are the three stars of Orion’s
Belt interpreted as three deer or antelopes (see Figs. 3, 5). One of
the neighboring stars is an arrow (or a bullet in later versions),
shot by the hunter to hit the animals. Such texts, some of them rich
in details, others not, are recorded among the Kazakhs (Potanin
1972: 54), the Kirgiz (Brudnyi & Eshmambetov 1989: 350), the Tibet-
ans (Okladnikov 1950: 300 (based on G. N. Potanin’s materials)), the
Tuvinians (Diakonova 1976: 285; Potanin 1883: 206, no. 38n), the Altai
(Garf & Kuchiiak 1978: 179–181; Nikiforov 1915: 251–252; Potanin
1883: 204, nos. 38b, 38c; Surazakov 1982: 127–128, 134), the Teleut
(Potanin 1883: 204, no. 38a), the Telengit (ibid.: 204–205, nos. 38d,
38e), the Khakas (Butanaev 1975: 236–237; Butanaev & Butanaeva
2001: 59–61; Radlov 1907, N 181: 273–274), the Tofa (Katanov 1891:
51; Rassadin 1996: 9–10, no. 2), the Buriat (Zhambalova 2000: 283;
Potanin 1883: 206, no. 38L; Khangalov 1960: 16, no. 10; Sharakshinova
1980: 58), and the Mongol (Potanin 1883: 205, 38g). There is not enough
data on the cosmography of Xinjiang but the existence of a Tibetan
version enables to suggest that the area of the motif encompassed
all Central Asia and that the Uigur were familiar with the story
just as well as other Turkic-speaking peoples of the region. The In-
dian version is similar to the Central Asian ones, though not quite
identical with them (Orion is a stag, three stars of Orion’s Belt rep-
resents an arrow that has pierced the animal (Gibbon 1972: 245)). It
could well have been brought to South Asia by the Indo-Arians. No
Cosmic Hunt is known in China where the Big Dipper was a locus
rather than a personage (Allen 1899: 435; Riftin 1980: 655–656). In
western and eastern Siberia, the borderline between the Central-
Asian and the Western-Siberian variants coincides with the fron-

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The Cosmic Hunt: Variants of a Siberian – North-American Myth

Betelgeuze Head Orion

Three Antilopes




Figure 3. Schematic position of the main stars of the Orion.

tier between the Turkic and Mongolian people to the south, and the
Uralic, Yenissei and Tungus people, to the The Cosmic Hunt: Vari-
ants of a Siberian – North-American Mythnorth. Both geographi-
cally and thematically, the Khakas version from Radlov’s collection
(Radlov 1907: 273–274, no. 181) is between the main types. Unlike
other Khakas variants, it belongs to the West-Siberian type, but
hunters pursue not an elk but two deer.

Just as the Western Siberian variant, the Central-Asian one has

analogies in North America, in particular in the southwestern part
of the continent across the Great Basin, Southern California, North-
western Mexico, and the Great Southwest. Corresponding texts are
recorded among different Yuman peoples, among the Seri (prob-
ably distantly related to the Yuma), among the tribes of the Numic
and Takic divisions of the Ute-Aztecan family, and among some
Apachean groups. The latter could hardly bring these ideas from
their Canadian homeland but borrowed them from some of their
Southwestern neighbors. Only the Algonkian Gros Ventre version
(the Northern Plains) stands territorially slightly apart from the
others. Among the Paviotso (Curtis 1976: 147–148; Lowie 1924: 232–
234, nos. 12), Chemehuevi (Fowler 1995: 147–148), Yavapai (Gifford
1933a: 381–382, 413–414), Maricopa (Spier 1933: 146–147), Kiliwa
(Meigs 1939: 69–78), and Gros Ventre (Kroeber 1908: 280) the Orion’s

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Yuri Berezkin Folklore 31

Belt represents three ungulates (mountain sheep, antelopes, buffa-

loes), pursued by hunters. Among the Mojave (Fowler 1995: 147),
Tipai (Drucker 1937: 26), Cocopa (Gifford 1933b: 286), Seri (Kroeber
1931: 12), the Takic (Cahuilla, Luiseño, Cupeño) (Hooper 1920: 362;
Drucker 1937: 26), Western Apache, Mescalero, Lipan and Southern
Ute (Gifford 1940: 60, 155, no. 2266), three stars of Orion’s Belt are
interpreted as one single animal. When additional details are avail-
able, the Orion’s Sword is always associated with the feathered tail
of the arrow and the stars of the Orion’s Head are the arrow tip.
The stars identified with the hunter are in every case below Orion’s
Belt. That is also typical for all Turkic and Mongolian versions. The
only difference is that in Asia the arrow that has pierced animals is
considered to be smeared with their blood and is accordingly asso-
ciated not with the Orion’s Head but with Betelgeuse, the bright
red star slightly to the left. Similar interpretation is, however, in-
cluded in some American versions. At least the Cahuilla identified
the hunter with Rigel which is on the other side of Orion’s Belt
directly opposite Betelgeuse. Identified with Rigel, the hunter has
to shoot in the direction of Betelgeuse. In the Apachean myths,
Betelgeuse grew red from anger when the arrow missed its aim
(the mountain sheep) and almost hit this star.

The association of three bright stars of Orion’s Belt with three ani-
mals or persons could well appear independently (cf. Spanish Tres
Marías). However, the arrow tip associated with one of the bright
celestial objects above the Orion’s Belt (Orion’s Head or Orion’s
Shoulder, i.e. Betelgeuse) is too specific to be a random coincidence.

The third (Circum Arctic) variant

This series of tales is not so uniform as the two previous ones, and
consists of two or three separate versions in all of which the Orion
and/or the Pleiades are associated not with the animals but with
the hunters. Among the North-Alaskan Inupiaq, the hunters (the
Pleiades) pursue polar bear (Aldebaran) (Gibbon 1964: 245; Simpson
1875: 272). The Mackenzie River Eskimo mention dogs in the sky
which accompany hunters (Ostermann 1942: 78). In this case, no
association with constellations is provided, but among the Copper
Eskimo, closely related to the Mackenzie groups, men who pursue
the bear are the stars of the Orion’s Belt (Rasmussen 1932: 23). For

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The Cosmic Hunt: Variants of a Siberian – North-American Myth

the Netsilik Eskimo farther to the east, hunters and their dog pur-
sue a bear and are associated with the Pleiades (Rasmussen 1931:
211, 263, 385). For the Iglulik and the Polar Eskimo, the Pleiades
are dogs and a bear which they encircled (Holtved 1951: 50–55, no.
6; Kroeber 1899: 173–174, no. 10), while for the Labrador Eskimo
bear and dogs seem to be identified with the Orion (Kroeber 1899:
173, no. 10). For the Baffin Land Eskimo, Betelgeuse was the bear,
Orion’s Belt represents the hunters, and Orion’s Sword was the
dog-sledge (Boas 1888: 636–637).

All these Cosmic Hunt stories have been recorded among the Inuit –
Inupiaq branch of the Eskimo with no such a story in Alaskan Yupic
folklore. Like many other tales, the Inuit-Inupiaq Cosmic Hunt
myths find parallels not in Southwestern Alaska, but to the west of
the Bering Strait. Among the Chukchi and the Koryak, the Orion
(i.e. the hunter) pursues the reindeer associated with the Pleiades
or Cassiopeia (Bogoras 1924: 243; 1939: 25, 28–29). Much further to
the west, the Lapp version is the nearest parallel for the Chukchi
one (Billson 1918: 180; Kharuzin 1890: 347; Potanin 1893: 328, no.
87). According to it, the hunter is also Orion, and the elk or rein-
deer pursued by him is Cassiopeia.

The Yukagir cosmology is poorly known. The Mestizos of Markovo

(with a probable Yukagir substratum) describe the Big Dipper as
an elk pursued by three brothers and three sisters (Diachkov 1992:
232), their story being somewhat similar to the Evenk ideas. In Yakut
myths the Orion pursues the elk (Ergis 1974: 135; Seroshevski 1896:
660), the Big Dipper is not mentioned. The Yakut tradition is het-
erogeneous. Some versions describe a lonely hunter whose ski path
turned into the Milky Way, which is typical for some Western Sibe-
rian, Tungus, Negidal and Ugedhe-Oroch stories. Other Yakut tales
not relevant to the origin of the Milky Way, describe a group of hunt-
ers. In America the interpretation of the Milky Way as a ski path is
present across Alaska and British Columbia among the Tlingit (De
Laguna 1972: 875–879; Swanton 1909: 102, no. 31; 296–298, nos. 96–
97), Central Yupic (Krenov 1951: 194; Nelson 1899: 449), Ingalik
(Vanstone 1978: 61) and Tahltan (Teit 1919: 229, no. 6), but only among
the Tlingit is this image connected with the Cosmic Hunt tale. Among
the Even (Lamut) three hunters who pursue mountain sheep are
associated with the Pleiades (Burykin 2001: 113, no. 22). The Pleiades

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Yuri Berezkin Folklore 31

mentioned in one of the Nganasan versions are hunters who catch

the reindeer with a net (Popov 1984: 48).3 The association of hunt-
ers with Orion or with the Pleiades is a feature shared by Yakut,
Nganasan, Even and the Chikchi – Inuit versions.


The first and the second variants of the Cosmic Hunt tale demon-
strate Eurasian–North-American parallels at the level of minor de-
tails which could be explained only by particular historical links
between the corresponding traditions. According to the first vari-
ant, three stars of the handle of the Big Dipper are hunters and the
dipper itself is an animal, while a weak star of the handle, most
probably, Alcor, occupies a special place in this picture. Its associa-
tion with a dog and especially with the cooking pot carried by the
second hunter is highly specific and could not emerge independ-
ently in Asia and in America. 4

The second variant of the Cosmic Hunt contains such specific

details as the association of the three stars of Orion’s Belt with
three deer, antelopes or mountain sheep and especially the asso-
ciation of the hunter’s arrow (or its point) with Betelgeuse or with
the group of stars which form the Orion’s Head.

Estimating the possible time sequence of the penetration of the

described variants of the myth into the New World, we should take
into consideration how distant from the Bering Strait the corre-
sponding areas are. The deeper into inner Asia and inner America,
the less probable is a recent spread of the myths. The Western Sibe-
rian and Central-Asian variants are differently localized both in
the Old and in the New World. To understand relations between
them, we should remember another Eurasian–North American mo-
tif, i.e. the transformation of seven brothers into the Big Dipper. Its
area in the Old World largely coincides with the area of the second
variant of the Cosmic Hunt. In America, it occupies the Plains, i.e. is
inbetween the Salishan (the western) and Iroquois – Algonkian (the
eastern) parts of the area of the tale about three hunters who pur-
sue a bear (Berezkin 2003: 100). The Western-Siberian variant of
the Cosmic Hunt contains details which are also found in the Seven
Star Brothers story. In both cases, the principal stars of the Big

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The Cosmic Hunt: Variants of a Siberian – North-American Myth

Orion & Dipper


Figure 4. Area distribution of the first and the second variants of the Cosmic Hunt tale
(the Big Dipper is three hunters and their dog). 1 – three stars of the handle are hunters,
dipper is an animal, 2 – Alcor is a cooking pot. 3. – Orion’s Belt is three or one ungulate
animal(s); either Betelgeuse or the Orion’s Head is the hunter’s arrow.

Dipper (all seven or only three stars of the handle) are separate
persons and not one man or object like a carriage, a bed, etc. In the
Seven Brothers tales of the Plains Indians, Alcor also plays its spe-
cial part being identified with a younger sister of the brothers
(Blackfoot (Spence 1985: 182–184)), their younger brother or child
(Crow (Lowie 1918: 126), Cheyenne (Erdoes & Ortiz 1984: 205–209),
Wichita (Dorsey 1904: 74–80, no. 10)) or with the sister’s dog (Sarsi
(Simms 1904: 181–182), Crow (Lowie 1918: 205–211)).

The Central-Asian variant of the Cosmic Hunt myth and the Seven
Star Brothers’ motif could have been brought to America by
migrational episodes which were close to each other in time. Most
probably, it was the time when a large set of motifs recorded across
Central Eurasia, on one hand, and across the Plains and Midwest,
on the other, was brought across the Bering Strait (Berezkin 2003;

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Yuri Berezkin Folklore 31

2004). The absence of these motifs in South America makes improb-

able their connection with the initial stages of the settling in the
New World. As for the Western Siberian variant, geographically lo-
calized nearer to Chukotka and Alaska, it could have reached North
America later. In both cases, however, we speak about the time be-
fore the spread of the Eskimo, Paleoasiatic, Tlingit and Athabaskan
groups across Eastern and Western Beringia. The problem of
Paleoasiatic origins is beyond the scope of this paper, still we should
notice a fact which can direct the search. Among the Chukchi, the
Orion was considered to be a humpback since the time when his
jealous wife (constellation of Leo) hit him with a heavy board be-
cause of the attention he paid to the Pleiades women (Bogoras 1939:
24). A similar plot was recorded among the “Tangut”, i.e. the Tibet-
ans of Chinghai. Gachari (a certain red star), a jealous husband of
the Pleiades, broke Orion’s back with a stone because of his sup-
posed interest in Gachari’s wife (Potanin 1893: 327). Such a parallel
is not a proof of any special connections between the Chukchi and
the Tibetans, but it still is an argument in favour of the inner Asian
homeland of some of the Paleoasiatic ancestors.

In the case of the third, circumpolar variant of the Cosmic Hunt, it

is totally possible that the Lapp and the Chukchi versions which
identify the hunter with the Orion have preserved the form of the
myth widespread across the Far Northern Asia before the relatively
recent migration of the Samoyed, Turkic and Tungus peoples. The
absence of this version among the Yupic and its presence among
the Inuit-Inupiak make one suggest that it had penetrated the East-
ern Arctic only after the BC/AD transition together with the neo-
Eskimo Thule tradition. The Inuit Eskimo texts have little in com-
mon with the Cosmic Hunt tales of the American Indians. The Arc-
tic variant with the Orion being the hunter is separated from other
American versions by the Subarctic where in the Athabaskan my-
thologies the “astral code” is quite undeveloped (McKennan 1959:
110). No Cosmic Hunt tales have been also recorded among the
Muskogean and other non-Iroquois peoples of the Southeast or in
Mexico (besides the Seri) and Lower Central America. This fact sup-
ports the hypothesis about different Eurasian origins of the sepa-
rate groups of American natives, not only the Eskimo, the Aleuts,
and the Na-Dene, but of different Amerindian tribes.

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The Cosmic Hunt: Variants of a Siberian – North-American Myth0

The Cosmic Hunt: Arctic versions

Figure 5. Area distribution of the third variant of the Cosmic Hunt tale.1 – hunter is the
Orion, game animal is Cassiopeia or the Pleiades; 2 – hunter is the Pleiades.

The creation of the Catalogue of Mythological Motifs of America and
Eurasia (about 35,000 abstracts of texts) and the research on its base
have been supported by the Program of Basic Research of the Presidium
of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Ethnocultural interaction in
Eurasia, by the Russian Fund of Basic Research (grant 04-06-80238,
and by the Presidium of St. Petersburg branch of the RAS (2004 grant).
The Catalogue (in Russian) is available at http://www.ruthenia.ru/folk-

The published Thompson and Shuswap texts are sparce in details, but
take into consideration the language and cultural proximity of both
groups to the Lillooet and the basic similarity of the Cosmic Hunt myths
in all these cases, the identification of the handle with three hunters and
the dipper itself with the animal for Thompson and Shuswap is very

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Yuri Berezkin Folklore 31

It is possible that the Christian and Muslim legend about “The Seven
Sleeping Boys of Efesos” was also connected with the interpretation of
the Big Dipper as seven men and their dog. According to the widespread
version, six righteous lads ran away from an impious king and hid them-
selves in a cave accompanied by a shepherd with his dog whom they met
on the way. They slept for many centuries, awoke, told their story and
died. There is a version with seven lads and a dog which went after them
(Snesarev 1983: 131–135). Though the dog does not play a significant
role in this story, it is persistently mentioned, possibly because of the
etiological nature of all the tale (the dog being the weakest star of the
The Pleiades represent a group of hunters in all those Amazonian Cos-
mic Hunt myths in which the corresponding constellation could be iden-
tified. These are Akavaio or Kariña (Roth 1915: 265–266, no. 211), Kaliña
(Magaña 1983: 32, no. 1), Siona and Secoya (Vickers 1989: 161–167),
Kamaiura (Münzel 1973: 187–190; Villas Boas & Villas Boas 1973: 171–
173). Such a parallel is not, of course, enough to suggest common roots
for Siberian and Amazonian versions.
If so, we must conclude that the distant ancestors of the Iroquois were
able to cook meat in pots before their migration to the New World. There
is no doubt that vessels of wood, skin, waterproof baskets with liquid
made to boil with hot stones thrown into it, were used well before the
invention of ceramics. A possible argument in favour of such a hypoth-
esis is similar spelling of words which mean ‘vessel’ in Indoeuropean,
Uralic, Dravidian and Yukagir languages (Napolskikh 1989). However,
it could be also a result of a relatively late spread of a cultural term for
ceramic pot (Vladimir Napolskikh, from personal communication, 2004).
The problem remains unresolved, and the data of comparative mythol-
ogy are of interest for its investigation.

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